LABOUR WORKSHOP ON LABOUR DAY
History has it that the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on 1st May was promulgated by Pope Pius the XII in 1955. The choice of the month and date was to counteract the atheistic communisms celebration of May- Day. Secondly, it was to emphasize the dignity of labor, Christian ideals in labor relations and the example of St. Joseph as workman. Fr. Gian Francesco Sisto ofm, the director of JPICFA had indicated a week earlier that “the workshop was organized in view of the canon law requirements”. Administrators of temporal goods of the church are invited to accurately observe the civil laws relating to labor and social life in making contracts of employment. However, the socio-economic situation in which the administrators find themselves may vitiate their compliance. Our facilitators will help us explore the possibilities within the law.
Sr. Noelina Nakato, DM., made a presentation on the Church perspectives of the theory and practice in employment contracts. She is a Ph D candidate in Canon law at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Her presentation was based on her doctoral research she is doing on domestic workers of 5 religious institutes in Uganda. She explored the history of contracts in Scripture and the wealth of guidance from the social teaching of the church since Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891.
Of particular emphasis was that while there is freedom of contract, the amount of wage shall not be less than enough to support a worker who is thrifty and upright. The reactions to her talk pointed to the fact that not all religious employers paying enough to their employees. “We would like to pay a just and fair wage but we cannot afford it” said one participant. Another participant confessed that her community pays the equivalent of 30 Euro a month to a cook who has three dependent children!!! “Actually this cook is privileged since we accommodate her, treat her when she is sick and are sending her to a tailoring school”, the participant added. Sr. Noelina emphasized that since the civil law requirements are usually minimalist, catholic employer should rise above them and follow the counsel of the social teaching of the church.
Mr. Richard Kakeeto made a presentation on the civil law perspectives of employment contracts. He is a lawyer and practitioner in the field of social justice by virtue of which he serves as an intern at the JPICFA office. He explored the essential ingredients of the contract of employment in Kenyan law and Common law. Of particular emphasis was the common law distinction between contracts of service and contracts for services. This distinction seemed to feature so often when claims for injury at work of wrongful dismissal were made. The presentation provoked a lot of discussion ranging from whether to draw up all contract or not, through the measure of wages to that of terminal benefits. It seemed that the level of compliance to the existing civil law is still low though more research has to be done to measure the level of compliance. The Government in the region has in the past three years updated their laws under the influence of the International Labor Organization. The Kenyan laws in particular are as recent as 2007. The inference is that since compliance to these laws in respect to Labor relations places an employer within the internationally accepted standards.
It was evident from the audiences that more workshops like this one were necessary to help influence practice. Some participants floated the idea of networking and collaboration among religious employers to enjoy the economies of scale in meeting their obligations under labor law.